Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: "The Wrong Thing"

Graham, Barry.  The Wrong Thing.   PM Press, Switchblade Series:  2011.

 "The Wrong Thing" was a serious genre stretch for me--I don't read a lot of crime fiction, and only picked this up because of my PM Press membership. I read the novel, or more properly novella, on a lazy Saturday morning, and for that purpose it was enjoyable. The book follows the brief life of The Kid, a young man of Latino heritage who falls into a lifestyle of crime in Santa Fe. The book is deadpan with a lot of social commentary on the traps of poverty and marginalization. Perhaps the best moment of the book actually comes at the end when we meet the narrator for a moment; had this part come earlier, I think it would have been a stronger tale. I wasn't particularly impressed by the book's craftmanship while reading it, but now that it's over the short saga is sticking in my head, and I am baffled by how to feel about The Kid--surely a guilty human being, but also one whose every impulse towards good has been maligned by evil systems. This is a relevant text about the problems of "criminals," especially those who commit crimes that would be wrong in any conceivable good society (as opposed to those who merely break silly or immoral laws). Should one be judged only on the worst actions in one's life, or the best? How could we break away from a punitive justice system? Would a more restorative system have saved The Kid and his victims? The book poses excellent questions and a case study to complicate the answers.

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